A Tribute to the of

It's a relative rarity, but you could, in fact, find issues of the Brave and the Bold that did not have Batman within their covers.  Witness this, the latest review candidate here at the Silver Lantern where the Fastest Man Alive, aka The Flash, joins forces with The World's Strangest Heroes, aka the Doom Patrol in a story by Bob Haney titled "Alias Negative Man!"  Lest I leave you wondering, it's Brave and the Bold #65, the April/May edition from 1966, edited by George Kashdan.

The story opens in an old brownstone on New York's east side, which also happens to be the secret headquarters of the Doom Patrol.  Dr. Niles "The Chief" Caulder, the founder and wheelchair bound leader of the Doom Patrol is instructing Cliff "Robotman" Steele to attack him.  Robotman isn't sure he wants the assignment, but agrees and then discovers what the Chief had up his sleeve.  A switch on the side of the wheelchair is thrown and a pair of powerful magnetic bracelets deploy, attaching themselves to Cliff's wrists.  Steele thinks he'll be fine as his feet are equipped with a magnetic grip function, but the bracelets are even more powerful and he soon finds himself trapped against the nearby steel wall.  Robotman asks what the Chief is doing to him and Caulder explains that he's merely trying to anticipate future threats so that he can nullify any vulnerabilities.  He then begins to sketch plans for increased magnetic flux in Cliff's ceramic-metal feet and a de-gaussing cable to de-polarize magnetic attack instruments.  Steele demands that he be released and just then Rita "Elasti-girl" Farr enters and obliges, using her size changing ability to grow until she can pluck Robotman off the wall as easily as you'd remove a magnet from your refrigerator.  Cliff thanks her and then comments that if she could only cook…  Not to be outdone, Rita retorts, "Why?  So I could change your brain food canister once a month?"  Steele says he can at least dream, but a distraught Elasti-girl says that he could live indefinitely while her powers have doomed her to an early death, punctuating her remarks by calling him a heartless junk-pile.  Robotman issues a scathing reply that he has a plastic pump for a heart that he listens to while others have the luxury of sleep.  The Chief has had enough of the bickering and insists they cease and desist.  At that moment, Larry "Negative Man" Trainor arrives and takes Caulder to task for upbraiding his teammates.  He says that they're simply letting off steam and if the Doom Patrol ever stops bellyaching and whining to look out.  Niles acknowledges the comment and then gets back to business, which is his efforts to enhance the team's weaknesses, to include developing a way to increase Rita's strength when she's shrunk down to doll size.  Larry asks the Chief if he has plans for him, too, but the leader of the Doom Patrol says that as Negative Man, he is the anchor, the most powerful member of the team and other than his being contained or stopped by lead, he has no particular weakness to worry about.

Segue now to a secluded girl's school outside Paris where an even more bizarre group is gathered.  An old man in an ancient military uniform is in attendance along with a woman, dancing arm in arm with a gorilla and on a nearby table sits a human brain encased in a clear glass enclosure filled with a clear fluid.  They are the Brotherhood of Evil, whose ranks include General Immortus, Madame Rouge, Monsieur Mallah (A French gorilla?) and The Brain.  They are discussing Operation Lead Coffin, a plan to neutralize Negative Man and ultimately the entire Doom Patrol.  Monsieur Mallah is hopeful, but cautious (A French gorilla who can speak!) and the Brain, with the aid of a squawk box reassures him that the plan cannot fail. 

Meanwhile, back at Doom Patrol HQ a communication is coming through from France, asking their help in apprehending a Nazi war criminal.  The Chief dispatches Negative Man, who leaves Larry Trainor's body, which slumps into a semi-conscious state, to zip over to Europe to make the collar.  He estimates it will take 30 seconds, half the time he's allowed to be outside the body before risking the death of Larry and the dissipation of Negative Man.  This shouldn't be a problem, since the radio energy that is Negative Man can travel at the speed of light.  Nearly instantaneously he arrives in Europe and spots a funeral procession.  To his surprise, the open coffin reveals his quarry, Hans Horst.  As he flits down for a closer look, he activates a concealed radiation counter on the side of the coffin.  No sooner does he realize "Horst" is merely a cardboard cut-out than the trap is sprung and Negative Man is trapped inside the lead coffin, closing both the lid and Part I.

Part II opens with a triumphant Horst, reporting via two-way radio (cell phones were a rarity in '66) to General Immortus that Operation Lead Coffin is a complete success.  A smiling Immortus replies that they've captured the Doom Patrol's most powerful member.  Back at DP HQ, a thunderstruck Chief exclaims that the brain scanner that monitors Larry's orders to Negative Man indicates his capture by the Brotherhood of Evil.  He immediately dispatches Robotman to place Trainor's body into the Bio-Freeze unit, designed to quick freeze it before the critical 60-second deadline has elapsed.  Following the successful operation, Steele demands that they go after their comrade, but Caulder has another plan; a plan to make the villains think that their ploy failed.  Using the last information available from Larry's thoughts prior to his transfer to the Bio-Freeze unit, which revealed that Negative Man was in an airplane heading westward over the Alps, the Chief sends a long-range laser radio beam to jam the radiation counter on the lead coffin. 

Back to Paris, where the 4 malefactors are now in contact with another henchman, the green-skinned Garguax, who is in his space station on the dark side of the Moon.  (I can almost hear Pink Floyd playing…)  The Brain instructs Garguax to commence the next phase of their plan, entitled Operation Darkside.  Soon we see various scenes around the world with skywriting, advertising a cola drink.  Even Robotman notes it through the skylight of the Doom Patrol's brownstone.  Next we see a rocket taking off from the Moon with some sort of odd device on the end of the nose cone. 

In another neck-breaking scene switch, we see Niles receiving a call from a scientific colleague.  Charles tells Caulder that he just saw a subatomic particle move with nothing more than his naked eye.  The Chief asks Charles to send him a blood sample immediately.  (FedEx, perhaps?)  Awhile later, the Chief is answering Steele's invitation to the communications center, where he sees a series of amazing events unfolding throughout the world.  A wave of violence is sweeping the world, including riots, civil wars and revolts.  The Chief then makes a strange comment:  "That blood sample my physicist friend sent me…Larry!  Come here—quickly!"  To the utter shock of Cliff and Rita, Trainor walks through the door.  Niles merely remarks that the Flash has passed his first test.  The Monarch of Motion then removes the gauze from his head, revealing the familiar Crimson uniform of the Fastest Man Alive.  Flash greets Elasti-Girl and Robotman and tells of his pleasure in finally meeting the Doom Patrol.  The Chief explains that he'd asked the Flash to take on the ruse of playing Larry Trainor and Negative Man since his super speed would allow him to travel just as quickly as the energy being.  By way of demonstration, Niles produces a black, radiating uniform for the Flash to don and also gives him a camera, instructing him to circle the globe while taking a series of pictures of the sky.  The Crimson Comet does as he is bidden and while he moves faster than the human eye can follow, his fleeting presence is recorded by electronic apparatus' in place that report back to the hideout of the Brotherhood of Evil.  Stunned, the villains move to an adjoining room, containing the lead coffin and presumably their hostage, Negative Man.  The radiation counter, however, is not registering, giving them a case of doubt.  The Brain insists it's a trick of the Chief, but Mallah says they cannot open the coffin to check as Negative Man would escape in a split instant.  Immortus interrupts the discussion:  "Enough you two!  I have not lived thousands of years to miss the obvious!  If Negative Man's back in action, the Brain's great scheme to neutralize the Doom Patrol has failed!  Operation Darkside is threatened with failure!  I am taking charge!"

During Immortus' speech, the Flash has returned to the brownstone in 36 seconds flat and delivers the camera.  The Chief quickly develops and projects the photos.  The first one, shot above the Taj Mahal shows huge words that say Destroy, Revolt, Kill.  Caulder explains that they're subliminal messages, flashed so quickly that the conscious mind is not aware of them.  These are the cause of the sudden worldwide outbreak of violence.  The Chief had thus equipped the Flash with the highly modified camera that could snap photos at one millionth of a second.  The Fastest Man Alive observes, however, that the human brain cannot register messages flashed at such a tremendous rate of speed.  Niles replies that the sky-written cola ads, courtesy of the Brotherhood of Evil, contained an enzyme speed-up catalyst of tremendous potency, which was the same catalyst he found in Charles' blood sample.  Caulder was suspicious when he noted the trademark of the cola ads was an old Egyptian sign for evil.  The wheelchair-bound genius then says he needs to scan all known space satellites before cutting the Doom Patrol loose. 

A little later, at a U.S. Government rocket base, a missile is deployed at the behest of the Chief to knock out a satellite belonging to Garguax.  After a direct hit, Garguax transmits to the Brotherhood that his satellite has been destroyed and that he is coming to Earth via his spacecraft.  At the headquarters of the Brotherhood, the bickering and accusations are in full swing, with Madame Rouge telling the Brain he can't outwit the Chief.  Immortus instructs them that they're leaving for Sahara Station Gamma at once.  In the next moment, the voice of General Immortus comes over a special frequency at the headquarters of the Doom Patrol.  Apparently, they have their own hotline to one another.  The criminal informs our heroes that they're going to rocket Negative Man into outer space. 

At the launch site in the desert, Madame Rouge says they don't know if Negative Man is even in the coffin that has been placed at the tip of the rocket.  Immortus acknowledges this, but says that if he is in there, the Chief will have no choice but to attempt rescue and then they'll know for certain. 

The members of the Doom Patrol are now airborne in the Chief's private jet.  Flash speculates that his act wasn't convincing enough, but Niles says it could be a bluff.  In any case, they must act.  Overhead, however, the space craft piloted by Garguax spots the jet and opens fire, closing Part II.

Part III opens with the jet freshly ensnared in a huge metallic net that deployed from Garguax's rocket.  Instantly the Chief insists on taking the controls from Robotman and orders the heroes to bail out.  Rita objects, but Niles insists, saying in his crippled condition he has little choice.  The three heroes exit through a hatch and each land in their own style.  Steele locks his metallic body into rigidity and lands solidly on his feet, actually burying himself up to his chest upon impact.  Rita expands one "elastic" leg and uses it for a shock absorber, while "Negative Man," alias the Flash moves his legs at super speed, providing a cushioned landing.  Elasti-girl despairs that the Chief is captured, but Cliff says that the Chief can take care of himself and they have a mission; to find their teammate.  Flash, still disguised as Negative Man, begins a swift recon of the area and soon locates the rocket launch along with Garguax's ship.  He retrieves Farr and Steele and they plan their assault.  They decide that their mere presence gives away the fact that the Brotherhood of Evil has Negative Man after all, so the Flash ditches the disguise and they decide to just ditch subtlety and go for a full court press.  Elasti-girl shrinks down to ride Robotman's shoulder, but enlarges her left arm for a battering ram while Flash does what he does best, running full-steam ahead.  The next panel is a duplicate of the cover where the Scarlet Speedster is vibrating through the wall while Rita and Cliff burst through, the helpless Chief looking on while Mallah activates the rocket, sending Negative Man into space.  Flash instructs Rita to jump to his shoulder while Cliff tackles the gorilla.  The Fastest Man Alive rushes to the rocket while Elasti-girl gro-o-o-ows to giant size to intercept the rocket.  She manages to catch it, but the lead coffin pops off the nose in the process. 

Back at the scene of the battle, Robotman is straining valiantly against Mallah to get to the Chief, but Garguax is pushing the wheelchair-bound man to the room where Madame Rouge and the Brain are lurking, planning to use the Chief as a bargaining chip.  Steele is flying out of the building, courtesy of a mighty blow from Mallah when the coffin falls beside him.  Using the great strength of his robot body, he knocks the lid off and frees Negative Man, who swiftly flies to Garguax's ship to free the leader of the Doom Patrol.  He isn't a moment too soon as Niles was just about to press a button on his wheelchair which would have destroyed the ship.  In a last, desperate effort, Madame Rouge pulls a revolver to try and kill Caulder, but the radio energy being known as Negative Man is too fast and the duo soon rejoin the other members of the team.  The Brotherhood of Evil has managed to escape, but the Doom Patrol is reunited and raring to take on their foes again in the future.  The Flash bids the team farewell and the story ends.

You have to wonder sometimes how the Doom Patrol functions as a team.  They remind me very much of Metamorpho, having been thrust into their unique positions through no particular fault or desire of their own.  They generally resent their status, in fact and while they often crack wise it seems to thinly veil their personal anguish.  Still, when the chips are down, they pull together and get the job done.  This was my first introduction to the Brotherhood of Evil.  According to The DC Comics Encyclopedia, they made their first appearance in Doom Patrol #86 from March of 1964 and consisted of The Brain, Monsieur Mallah, who likely reminded Flash of his long-time ape nemesis, Grodd, Madame Rouge, General Immortus and Garguax.  They apparently exist in a contemporary lineup as the "Society of Sin," see The New Titans Annual #6.

As a side note, between the time I began this review and final completion, "The Incredibles" came out on home video and of course I bought a copy.  Maybe the Doom Patrol is just too obscure or maybe it's the fact that Rita Farr is no longer in the lineup, but in any case I was a little surprised and amused that Pixar was able to use "Elastigirl" without acknowledgement or penalty, even if this modern character is more like Jimmy Olsen's "Elastic Lad."  The Incredibles overall are pretty much a slightly jumbled knock-off of the Fantastic Four when you think about it, though.  Mr. Incredible's name isn't far from Mr. Fantastic, though Incredible's powers are more like that of the Thing while Elastigirl mimics Fantastic.  The daughter has Sue Richards' powers of invisibility and force fields.  "Dash," the son, is odd man out with his Flash-like abilities.  I noticed the baby burst into flame like the Human Torch and possibly did a Ferro Lad afterward, turning his body into iron or steel.  It's a great little show.

The art, rendered by Bruno Premiani (cover), Dick Giordano & Sal Trapani (interior), for this issue was very well done and the storyline wasn't bad, though I wish the pace of scene switches hadn't been as brutal.  I sometimes found it hard to keep track of what was going on.  I also admit I was expecting a little bit more from two team-ups in direct opposition.  Something was lacking, though and it wasn't as satisfying a read as I'd hoped.  I'll grade the effort with a 6.        

Our host's recent server move has put me one review behind schedule, so to set things right Sage #119 will be posted on April 8, 2005. Please join me then as we continue our journey through the greatest era in comics!   My e-mail address stands ready to receive any comments, questions, suggestions or fond reminiscences at professor_the@hotmail.com

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2005 by B.D.S.

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